rainy day

It was a rainy day here in Shanghai yesterday and I didn’t bring an umbrella because I generally don’t mind the rain too much, but while I was crossing the road near the subway in Pudong a Chinese girl stood beside me to share her umbrella with me while we crossed the road. We couldn’t converse at all, but a simple xiexie (pronounce sje-sje, which means thank you) and a mutually genuine smile sufficed.

A couple of hours later I was walking to the Power Plant of Art where there is an Andy Warhol exhibit and a sweet gentleman could tell that I was confused as to which way to go after exiting the subway station. I still didn’t have an umbrella, so he walked me to the museum all the while sharing his umbrella with me while we chatted away in English, and when we arrived he eventually gave me his umbrella for me to keep.

The locals are generously kind towards us laowais.

sunny day

I write this while soaking up some rays on a terrace near my Shanghai home. Granted, it is pretty hot, but I like this temperature and while I sit here I see passersby with umbrellas to protect themselves from the sun with fans to cool themselves while wearing mouth caps to protect themselves from the polluted air. The waitress just walked over to remind me that it’s hot and I should sit in the shade, I told her that I like the sun to which she replied with a giggle.

lilongs

Lilong means alleyway. Shanghai alleyways are so much fun. Whenever you walk around you just pop into one and you never know what to expect – sometimes there is a little cafe, other times a barber shop, or a clothing boutique, there could be little children playing or elder men playing some kind of card game while smoking cigarettes with a crowd standing around them and other times you can find another little alleyway leading to another to another. They generally have laundry drying on clothes lines, which I find adds to the attractiveness of them.

The alleyways where the more wealthy people live generally have a front door, but also a back door which leads to a tiny little space attached to their home where the nanny or maid lives.

Here are some of them and I’m sure I’ll show you some more later.

drinking the tea ceremoniously

My brother has been enjoying his tea. Last week he took me to meet his friend Brian from New Zealand who is an avid tea drinker and he has taught Henjo a thing or two about drinking the tea. We held a tea ceremony in his beautiful home on a lovely sunny Sunday afternoon.

Henjo does really take this seriously.
Henjo does really take this seriously.

I will try and explain how they drink the tea in China and Taiwan. First of all there is one person who will perform the ceremony, you can switch turns later, as we did; Brian started and Henjo followed after which I got to try a couple of times, but generally one person is the master the complete ceremony.

The first step the ceremony master takes is to boil the water in the bigger sized pot on an electrical heater that is located next to the table where the ceremony is performed, preferably a tad out of sight since it doesn’t look as nice as all of the fragile china. While the water boils you carefully add the dried tea leaves to the smallest sized tea pot without breaking the leaves. The smallest teapot is used to pour the tea into the tiny cups, and once the water boils you add this water to the tea leaves in the small pot.

After the first batch of tea is poured into the tiny little tea cups, you discard the water from the little cups into a separate container. This first pouring made the tiny glasses hot and ready to go for round one of ceremoniously drinking the tea.

Tea from 2011.
Brian scraping off some tea which has aged for over two years.

There are usually about 7-15 rounds of tea from one batch of leaves, and the entire ceremony can go on for hours.

I must say at first I assumed a tea ceremony would just consist of some people sitting around pouring and drinking some tea, but when we were doing this together and Brian was pouring the tea so beautifully and calm I could really tell that there was a certain art and zen to this way of drinking tea and I found it quite appropriate for the mindfulness quest that I am currently on. Brian taught me much about the subject and the art of tea drinking on this day and he told me interesting stories about the subject of tea from when he was living in Taiwan; this is where he became interested in tea and the art of drinking it in the Taiwanese way.

In conclusion, the ceremony of drinking tea here in Asia with all of the tiny and fragile china and tea delicacies is nothing short of an art form.

turmeric & ginger tea

Ginger, turmeric, triphala and cinnamon
Ginger, turmeric, triphala and cinnamon

Recently I have been drinking this delicious concoction for breakfast which is easy to make.

The main ingredient is almond milk*, but you can use soy milk, coconut milk or dairy milk if you prefer.

Recipe:
1 cup of the milk of your choice in a pan and heat on a low heat
1 inch of ginger root – cut into small bits and add to a pan
2 teaspoons of turmeric
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
2 teaspoons of Triphala (optional, as it might be impossible to find)
Additional herbs that are nice to add: cardamom or clove

Once the mixture has been simmering on low heat for about 10 minutes you can pour it into your cup and add a spoon of honey/agave/stevia. If you like you can strain the pieces of ginger, but I like to leave them and eat a couple of the pieces and with the leftover pieces I will make more tea afterwards.

* How to make your own almond milk:
Soak almonds overnight
If the almonds have the brown skin around them preferably remove this skin
Blend the soaked almonds in a blender
Use a cheesecloth to let the liquid from the almonds soak into a bowl
The liquid is your almond milk

You can also use the left over pieces of almond as almond meal for bread or muffins by letting them dry for at least a day, they’re packed with fibers and it’s a waste to toss out.

taobao

Taobao homepage.
Taobao homepage.

The most fantastic website you will ever come across in your life. Taobao has simply everything! We went to a BBQ party last weekend and guess where the grill was from: Taobao, for 250 Quay and delivered to their doorstep.

So far I have found beeswax, jojoba oil, shea butter, raw almonds, coconut oil and a tie-dye t-shirt on there and everything was amazingly well-priced.

Apparently it can be addictive to many here in China – spending hours on Taobao searching for unique and awesome items, there is a lot of scheisse on there as well.

Ok, so the clothing items are mainly knock-offs. Some of the stores on Taobao go to European clothing stores (like H&M) and buy one of everything after which they will replicate all of them and sell the items for a fraction of the price. In another case they will keep the factories open wherever they are in China and reproduce the exact items, but sell it for a lot less. In some cases the product will have had a malfunction and had been sent back to the factory after which they will sell the product for a fraction of the price on Taobao.

And they sell puppies.

shanti or zen in shanghai

Incense for morning yoga.
Incense for morning yoga.

To be honest I was a bit worried about this, I am a person who is very much influenced by surroundings, people and atmosphere. This is one reason why I loved India, I could completely be myself and not have to take steps back towards myself – it all came naturally.

The first week here in Shanghai was a bit hectic, but I think I have found the balance between city life and shanti life.

Ideally I would wake up before the sun rises and do Surya Namaskar (sun salutation) to start the day off at the perfect time, but this doesn’t seem happen here since I stay up later in the evening to spend time with Henjo & Selma, so my routine starts off later, but it’s still a great way to start the day nonetheless.

To pretend that I am still in the mountains of Dharamkot I walk up 29 flights of stairs to the apartment nearly daily to remain in that climbing mindset.

The other day I ate Indian food.

Selma & I did Ashtanga yoga together before heading to the city beach for some sun worshipping in polluted air last Monday.

Eat different amazing fruits every morning from the huge assortment at the City Life grocery store.

Overall pretty Shanti & Zen.

The usual amazing breakfast.
The usual amazing breakfast.

shanghai life

I love this view of run-down old building with the modern buildings as the back ground. Most of the old buildings are being torn down for high-rises.
I love this view of run-down old building with the modern buildings as the background. Many of the old buildings are being torn down for high-rises.

After being immersed into city life and having caught up with my brother Henjo and his girlfriend Selma I now finally have a feeling what life in Shanghai is like. I had been to Shanghai once before, but I wasn’t completely impressed. Our trip consisted of shopping, playing tourist on the Bund and spending too much time in the hotel and on airplanes trying to find Xi’an where the Terracotta Army is – which didn’t happen because the airplane didn’t land due to mist. Oh and it was December. Now I have a better chance to view this city and hopefully more of the country as well.

Shanghai is very much like NYC, there are many young professionals and hip youngsters, hotspot cafes and restaurants, city beaches and the (underground) music scene here is an example to many other countries.

After arriving on a Saturday Henjo took me to see Selma’s work space which is a place for children’s birthday parties, in the park opposite her work there was a festival taking place named Midi – it felt as though I was in either Europe or Brooklyn, because the crowd dressed and acted the same. During the week we went to see a Dutch rock band perform in a dive bar which was great, mainly due to the fact that they are Dutch. This weekend there will be another festival with European musicians and dj’s which Henjo, Selma and I will attend since the weather is going to be amazing. Before I came to this city I had heard that Shanghai was artistically like NYC in the 70s and thus the place to be if you love music. I gather there is much truth in this seeing what I have experienced so far.

A group of Henjo & Selma’s friends threw a BBQ last weekend where I met many expat designers from Europe which was also something that I had heard; that many designers from abroad are being hired by Chinese companies because European design is sought after by Chinese.

At the moment I’m sitting on a terrace near my Shanghai home waiting for my purple sweet potato porridge, and there are two girls in their late 20s taking risqué pictures of themselves while the boyfriend of one of them sits and watches them when he’s not too busy sipping his colorful cocktail. Fashion, status and just generally looking the part is an important aspect of Shanghai life.

Little things I have noticed so far

  • Public transportation is great, but busy
  • It’s a very well organized city
  • There are many western models living in Shanghai
  • The city is expensive
  • It’s neat as in not much litter, but it is dirty because of pollution
  • The climate is like NYC; it’s already hot and humid

Pheuteus of Shanghai

Antique market.
Antique market.
The Shanghai alleyways will be my Indian cows.
The Shanghai alleyways will be my Indian cows.
We live in one of these.
We live in one of these.
They're from Limburg, Holland.
They’re from Limburg, Holland.

Run down.

cosmetics diy

There is enough plastic on the planet.

I have been looking into home-made organic alternatives for some cosmetic necessities. Why?

  1. use less plastic
  2. put less chemicals on body
  3. contribute to less chemicals down the drain and thus into our water supply
  4. and then there’s the whole testing on animals aspect
  • This is what I have tried thus far:

Face wash
You can opt for an oil face wash if you have dry or normal skin: mix 50% olive oil with 50% castor oil, use spread evenly on face and then remove the oil with warm water and a washcloth. If you have oily skin you can create this face wash: 1 tablespoon of Baking Soda with lemon juice or water.

Toothpaste
Combine 6 teaspoons of Baking Soda with 2 tablespoons of Coconut Oil; add as many drops of peppermint oil as you like – to taste – and if you would like it sweeter you can add some stevia as well. If it’s too watery; add more Baking Soda, if it’s too dry; add more Coconut Oil.
If you want to be fancy, you can brush your teeth with crushed up strawberries, this is a natural tooth whitener.

Sunscreen
Coconut oil is a natural sun protectant and the oil hydrates your skin as well. I have learned from Sebjectivist that sunscreen actually gives you cancer: article.

Shampoo
Boil water with ginger root – you can add green tea as well. After the ginger/green tea water has cooled down add 2 tablespoons of baking soda and this is your shampoo.

Conditioner
Use one cup of water with one tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar (the one with “the Mother”). Mix together and use. After you have rinsed and towel-dried your hair you should add some Coconut Oil, especially if you have dry hair.

Hair mask
Mix ½ Avocado, 1 egg yolk and 1 or 2 tablespoons of honey together and add to hair. You can substitute the egg yolk for mayonnaise – it’s not an exact science, I tend to throw some of these ingredients together and it works just as well.

Body moisturizer
Coconut Oil is great to moisturize your body the summer time; in the winter you can use sesame or almond oil. Sesame oil is also great if you have sore muscles of joints (due to too much yoga, as I have experienced in India) as Sesame Oil penetrates through the skin right to the bone and muscles.

  • This is what I have found & will try:

Face cream
Use Jojoba Oil for your face, you can add some drops of rose essence or another natural fragrance if you prefer perfume. It’s also nice to add some pure Aloe Vera oil, as this soothes the skin.

Lip balm
Melt 2 tablespoons of Coconut Oil with 1 tablespoon of Beeswax Pastilles and 1 tablespoon of Shea Butter or Cocoa Butter in a glass jar au Bain Marie (this means putting the glass jar in the pan containing boiling water), gently stir the mixture – don’t let it boil. When it’s mixed you can add some Beetroot powder to it, and maybe some organic essential oils for a nice smell or taste. Use an old lip moisturizer tin.
Source: wellness mama

Deodorant
Melt Coconut Oil (3 tablespoons) and Shea Butter (2 tablespoons) together over medium heat, stir in Baking Soda (3 tablespoons) and some essential oils if you like. Let it sit for a while and it will be ready to use.
When you have run out, you can use the juice of a fresh lemon as well.

Soap
This is a more difficult task, and I haven’t tried it. I found an appealing recipe here, which doesn’t look too difficult: Responsible Living.

If you don’t like the idea of making your own products then lots of over the counter products can be found here: Environmental Working Group. They rate the products based on how harmful they are for you and the environment. EWG also rates home-cleaning products.

I’m excited to be living in a home with a kitchen for a while here in Shanghai, so that I can start making my products again and not use whatever chemicals they put in their products with labels that I can’t read. Most of the products are very easy to make, except for the soap, and I can guarantee it’s fun to try and create your own product. You should save the plastic bottles of products that you already have in your home, or you can buy mason jars instead to use as containers.

When I find any of these ingredients here in Shanghai, I will start creating and once they are created: I will share with y’all!